My parents and I led separate lives. It has been that way ever since I could remember.
Dad was an independent Jacuzzi sales man. He worked from home. That meant, at any given time there were a dozen hot tubs set up in the backyard. It smelled like a bleach factory. He did all his wheeling and dealing from a little pool cabana set up beside the garage.
Mom was a dollmaker. Not like Geppetto. She made those reborn dolls they sell on ebay. You know the ones. They’re eerily like real babies right down to their battery operated heartbeats and microwavable butt warmers. Mom was really good at what she did. Her dolls sold for thousands of dollars and she was featured in half a dozen doll magazines. There always seemed to be a bunch of crazy old ladies in the house; they were either whipping out their checkbooks in our living room that’s been converted into a ‘nursery’ or taking notes in the room Doctor Franken-Mom uses as her laboratory. Most people used their dining room table and china cabinets for eating. My mother used ours for mixing paint solvent.
And so, I stayed in my room. Over the years, I had to become pretty self-sufficient, so in addition to having all of the things that most kids have in their rooms—a computer, books, a bed, a desk, something to hold clothes—I shopped garage sales to turn my room into a virtual studio apartment. I set up a little kitchen area with a full size refrigerator, a cook top and a countertop convection oven. There was an RV sized washer and dryer under my desk, a self storing bistro set shoved between my dresser and the wall, surround sound speakers and a computer projector attached to my ceiling to keep me entertained.
I hardly ever left.
That’s probably why I was the last person on earth to learn about the aliens. Literally.
I probably would have slept right through the whole thing had I not been so addicted to online farming simulations. It all started with Farmville, then I added Farm Frenzy and before I knew it I was signed up on twenty three different sites, planting vegetables that I had never heard of and raising an army of livestock. It was summer break and I had gotten into the habit of only leaving my room to use the bathroom and to occasionally shower. Usually at four in the morning. For weeks, I had been living off of a stash of Hot Pockets, Clif Bars and Easy Mac. My entire life was fake farming.
The thing about fake farming is that there are thousands, if not gazillions of people out there also addicted to fake farming. You form teams and guild with them. You trade with them. You talk to each other on the forums.
At about seven o’clock the night before, the action on my sites started to slow down. Massively slow down. The forums were dead. No new missions were starting up. I couldn’t place a trade with anyone.
At the time, I guessed it was a hacker. I mean, senseless terrorism happens right? So I surfed from site to site looking for one that had escaped the vandals. I was convinced that all of my farming friends were just as frustrated and probably doing the same thing. After hours of failing, I logged on to Twitter and filtered through all my farming contacts, looking for an update on the situation.
But Twitter was completely dead. There hadn’t been any updates in hours. The hackers had gotten to them too! For the first time in months, I shut my internet all the way down. If they had gotten into Twitter, then surely there was no point in trying to outsmart them. I turned on my projector, opened my itunes library and settled in to watch a Bones marathon.
Which meant that I fell asleep after twenty minutes.
I woke up in the early hours of morning, something I had not done since the last days of school. Bones was still flickering across my wall. I reached over to my computer, but decided not to enable the internet. I didn’t need to give the hackers anything else to do.
Then I open the door to my room and ventured to go somewhere other than the bathroom. With something this big, it would have to be on TV or in the newspapers or something. This has to qualify as a national disaster, I thought.
“Mom?” I called out. Was it too early for customers? I hoped so. When was the last time I had combed my hair? My dirty old pajamas had a pizza sauce stain on the collar.
I pushed open the door to her laboratory. Everything looked normal. Except that her large vat of thin purple paint that she used to wash the insides of the doll limbs was streaked with tinged with a rusty brown. A dozen doll heads were floating in the gunk.
“Mom?” I called, eyes darting around for today’s newspaper. Not seeing it, I pushed my way into the nursery, careful not to track stray flecks of paint on to the pastel rug.
That’s when I knew that something was wrong.
“Mom!” I screamed. I screamed for both of my parents. The truth is that anyone on earth could have answered me and that would have been alright.
The nursery was a mess. Hundreds and hundreds of dolls had been ripped open, the sand used to weigh them down so that they weighed a perfect 6 pounds 3 ounces for that sleeping newborn feel was scattered across the floor. The bits of blood red memory foam used to pad their fatty areas looked like chewed up bits of organ around their decapitated heads.
“Waaaah!!!” A voice box shot out from under my foot. It scampered across the floor and landed by me.
Well, not me. But a doll my mother had painted to look just like me when I was a baby. The first doll that my mother had ever made. I reached down. I was the only thing in the room left in tact.
“Where did she go?” I asked my infant replica.
“Ooooo.” My voice answered me back. My mother recorded it so many years ago.
“Do you think Dad left us a note?” I pushed my way outside and headed towards the cabana.
At first I didn’t see them. I didn’t notice that the morning sky was an eerie shade of yellow, dark and light at the same time. I didn’t notice that millions upon millions of them hovered black in the strange sky. Their high pitched humming and acrid burning smell didn’t attract my attention.
I didn’t notice because the pool cabana and half the spas had been reduced to rubble. Half our cinderblock wall lay in a big pile and beyond that the neighbors’ homes were partially disintegrated.
“Oooooh,” the doll me cooed in my arms.
Just then a loud crash sounded from above. I looked up at into eerie yellow sky and saw the thousands of shadowy discs hovering there. One by one they each flew away, all making the same sonic boom as they broke the sound barrier. The sky faded to white. Overcast.
With my doll self still in my arms, I ran up and down the street , cutting my bare feet on pieces of window. The horrible burning smell hung thick in the air. My house was one of the few that looked largely untouched by much of the damage. In the middle of the street I found an old laptop playing the same news clip over and over on the last of its batteries. The speakers were badly smashed. I could only pick out the words:
So that was it. I had been forgotten. The last person left to rot here on earth.
I leaned over and threw up, too sick to scream. Both my parents were gone. We would never be a family again. We never even had the chance to become a real family. What a mess I had made. A thousand regrets poured out of my stomach.
Tottering back on bloody feet, I came back to my own home and climbed into my father’s showpiece model with my clothes still on, my mother’s masterpiece gurgling in the crook of my arm.
“This looks like as good a place as any to rot and die.” I told her.
“Oooooooh,” she cooed.